HCG Weight Loss: What About the HCG Side Effects?

The latest diet craze seems to focus on the HCG weight loss program. While many to initially lose weight, what about long term HCG side effects from the program?

Here in AZ, the HCG diet has been quite the craze the past few years.  HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin.  For those of you well versed in physiology, you may recognize this as the hormone that is produced by the placenta during pregnancy and is the hormone that is used in pregnancy tests.

Not sure when the last time I saw a pregnant woman take off weight, but it seemed to work to fool a lot of patients.  There are clinics that devote thousands in advertising to HCG weight loss programs and have the entire business model centered around the product.

 There are a few common threads to the providers and websites that promote HCG:

  1. The HCG injections curb your appetite.
  2. HCG weight loss injections cause your body to lose unwanted fat (Lose up to a POUND of fat per day!!)
  3. The HCG diet plan resets your hypothalamus that has been misprogrammed by years of poor lifestyle choices.

The first time I was exposed to the HCG program and the Simeon’s diet, I spent quite a bit of time researching it.  Let me rephrase that–I spent quite a bit of time trying to find research related to HCG and weight loss that had been published in the last 30 years.  With the exception of a study done in the past few years finding no benefit to using HCG injections over using the diet alone, there just isn’t any.

So what do I have to say to the 3 points above?  I’ll address them individually.

1)  In published studies done on water only fasting to lower blood pressure, the authors were surprised that hunger was not an issue for the participants in this study beyond day 2 or 3.  In other words, the body quickly adapts to the lack of calories and hunger is curbed anyway.

2)  Really?  A pound of pure fat loss per day?  Does anyone actually believe this?  First of all, every ounce of weight loss is associated with fat, muscle and water loss.  It’s all a matter of how much we lose of each. 

This brings us to #3.

This is the big push for the people selling the program.  The hypothalamus is responsible for setting our body’s internal temperature, among other things.  It would certainly sound appealing if HCG injections could help restore the settings of our hypothalamus to our younger days.

There is just no evidence to suggest the HCG does this.  This particular study, on the other hand, suggests just the opposite.

Researchers looked at what happened to mice fed a calorie restricted diet and then later allowed to eat as much as they would like.  Turns out these calorie restricted mice had a much greater tendency to eat more and to gain weight.  In other words, there was no “resetting” of the mice’s hypothalamus and body weight regulation.

There was something that changed as a result of the very low calorie diet that seemed to be long term.  This is consistent with many people on the HCG weight loss plan who later regain much of the weight they lost.

Does this mean that very low calorie diets are a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  Even in this study, there were clear benefits to the mice’s health under the calorie restriction.

But anyone undergoing this type of plan needs to understand that this is the beginning of the rest of your life with less calories.  If not, you WILL put the weight back on after you’re done with the HCG diet plan.

Not to toot our own horn (although I am clearly going to…), our office offers a very low calorie diet plan.  There are two differences with our program.  First, as mentioned, we explain to every participant that this program is the beginning of the rest of his or her life with less calories.

Second, we use a supplement specifically designed to support your physiology during a very low calorie diet.  This product helps to ensure that your thyroid and adrenals don’t go into starvation mode and cause you to preserve fat.

So, before you jump on board the HCG weight loss plan because some flashy ad made it sound like the most effective method of weight loss since amputation, consider this post.

If you did try the HCG plan, did you have a problem maintaining the weight loss you achieved?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.